WestJet-Sunwing deal now complete

Federal govt.’s approval of proposed WestJet-Sunwing deal could come as early as today: report

OTTAWA — The federal government’s approval of WestJet Group’s acquisition of Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines could be announced as early as today, according to one report.

The heads-up comes from the Globe and Mail, citing a tip from two officials close to the matter.

WestJet and Sunwing announced their potential deal in March 2022, just as Canada’s last travel restrictions were starting to lift.

At that time, the two companies said a new Toronto-based tour operating business unit would be created under the WestJet Group, to include both Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations Inc., and led by Sunwing CEO Stephen Hunter. There was also word of a Quebec head office in Laval, while WestJet Group would maintain its headquarters in Calgary. The Sunwing brand would be marketed alongside WestJet Vacations.

Also part of the proposed deal, the WestJet Group of companies would expand to include Sunwing Airlines. According to the Group, this will add increased capacity, dedicating otherwise seasonal aircraft to operate year-round in Canada, instead of Sunwing supplementing seasonal demand with imported aircraft.

In March 2022, Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO of WestJet, said, “This is an exciting moment for WestJet, Sunwing and Canada’s travel industry”, while Stephen Hunter, CEO, Sunwing, said that the company has a “very promising” future as part of The WestJet Group.

The proposed deal has gone through a public consultation process. Airline industry expert John Gradek, interviewed by Travelweek days after the March 2022 announcement, said the proposed deal “wasn’t a matter of when, but who.”

In October 2022, a report from Canada’s Competition Bureau outlined concerns that the proposed acquisition “is likely to result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in the sale of vacation packages to Canadians”, prompting swift reaction from both Sunwing and WestJet.

In the wake of that report, Gradek told Travelweek that while the Competition Bureau’s concerns had echoes of pushback ahead of the ultimately failed Air Canada- Transat deal, “the WestJet-Sunwing transaction has a great deal less duplicity and frequency impact and, in my opinion, should easily pass Canadian government approval.”

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